From Daily Pain to Coaching Baseball

Twenty years as a New York City police officer took their toll on Gregory Slator’s back. Still a young man of 50, his low back pain progressed to the point where he could barely walk, and standing up straight was nearly impossible. He said the pain that radiated down his right leg felt like an “electric shock.” He described his pain level as a “10” on a 10-point scale.

Typical medicines and therapies, including steroid injections, did not help. This Long Island father of two was being dominated by his pain. Fortunately for Mr. Slator, a neighbor recommended that he see NSPC spine neurosurgeon, Dr. Artem Y. Vaynman.

“The weakness on Mr. Slator’s right side was significant,” says Dr. Vaynman. “He had three disc herniations in his lower spine that were actually causing him to lean to the side, and making him limp. Mr. Slator is young, and otherwise healthy and fit. This was interfering significantly with his quality of life.”

“Dr. Vaynman went right in and told me what needs to be done,” says Mr. Slator. “I didn’t have to think too long about this. I decided that I didn’t want to be like other people I knew, taking drugs for years but getting no relief. There was no getting around it.” Dr. Vaynman scheduled the surgery at Mercy Medical Center: a three-level decompression and fusion. Spinal fusion helps restore disc height and immobilizes vertebrae to stop motion at painful joints and reduce any unnatural pressure on the neighboring nerve roots. These treatments use surgical implants and natural bone graft material that is placed between vertebrae after the surgical removal of the damaged intervertebral discs. In healing, the graft material grows in the disc space, joining the two vertebrae together, effectively eliminating the painful motion.

Although full fusion of his spine will take about two years, Mr. Slator has already gone back to coaching baseball. “His spine is almost fused now, and he doesn’t have back or leg pain,” says the doctor.

The techniques necessary for successful three-level decompression have become available only recently, and Dr. Vaynman has had great success in doing this procedure in cases like Mr. Slator’s. “This procedure addresses the problem completely,” he says. “If you do a less extensive procedure such as a laminectomy in a case like this, the patient will be far more likely to require a second surgery.”

“I’m glad I got this surgery,” says Mr. Slator. “All things considered it’s a success, and I’m very happy with how things turned out. I have no pain now, and I can walk again with no problem. I’d recommend this surgery with Dr. Vaynman for other people with this problem.”